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THE “A” WORD – How the word ALIMONY strikes fear into man-kind!


During my consultation with male clients going through divorces, the word “alimony” seems to be the most dreaded topic to be discussed. Usually, you can place the reactions to this word in two categories. The first is the analytical client. He knows alimony is going to be an issue, and all he wants is the formula used in setting the amount and length of time. The second reaction is the shocked client. This client has spent enough and been through enough during the marriage that the thought of a continued payment to his ex-wife seems to be beyond the realm of possibility. Unfortunately, both of these clients are often in for a rude awakening.Alimony Word 3d Money Ball Financial Obligation Ex Spousal Suppo

If a judge is called upon to determine the alimony issue, he or she must first resolve three initial questions:

1) How long have the parties been married?
2) Is there a financially disadvantaged spouse?
3) Is the other spouse capable of paying alimony?

Courts are reluctant to award alimony in short-term marriages. What constitutes a short-term marriage is open to interpretation. A general rule of thumb often used is any marriage less than five years is “short-term”. If alimony is awarded in a marriage this brief, the court must state very specific reasons for its decision.

The next two questions are fairly self-explanatory. Each party’s income is reviewed to see if there is a disparity. If a disparity exists, the court will then review the higher wage earner’s income and expenses to determine if that person can afford to pay alimony. It is important to note that the court is not limited to actual income for either spouse. Based upon such things as education, work history, and employment fields, the court can set income based on what the court believes a spouse’s income should be, rather than what it is. Also, typically, the issue of disparity carries with it more weight than the issue of whether a spouse is able to pay.

Just based on the initial questions a judge has to resolve, you can see that the analytical client is frustrated because there is obviously no set formula. The judge has significant discretion in both the amount and length of an alimony award. The shocked client is equally frustrated in that the burdens of marriage often have little to do with whether alimony is to be awarded.

Alimony can either be temporary or long-term. Temporary alimony is also known as rehabilitative or transitional alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is used when a court believes that the economically disadvantaged spouse, with reasonable effort, can achieve an earning capacity that will permit them a standard of living after the divorce comparable to the same standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. Transitional alimony is used when the disadvantaged spouse needs short-term assistance to adjust to the economic consequences of a divorce.

Long term alimony is called alimony in futuro. This alimony is reserved for lengthy marriages where the disadvantaged spouse is unable to be rehabilitated. It can last until the death or remarriage of the recipient or the death of the payor. The court can also place a time limit on this type of alimony (i.e. until the parties are able to draw from their retirement savings). Alimony in futuro can be modified by
the courts once awarded for unforeseen circumstances such as a loss of a job, medical issues, or retirement.

In determining what type of alimony should be used and the amount and length of that alimony, the courts are given considerable leeway in their decision so long as they follow some basic legal criteria. Again, much to the chagrin of many men, there is no formula.

The factors the court can consider are:

1) Earning capacity of each party and the financial resources of the parties.
2) Education and training of the parties.
3) Length of marriage.
4) Age and mental condition of the parties.
5) Physical condition of the parties.
6) Reasons why a party should not be employed (kids at home.)
7) Separate assets of each party.
8) Separate property awarded in the divorce.
9) Standard of living established during the marriage.
10) Contributions to the other parties occupation or education.
11) Who’s to blame for the divorce.

Suffice it to say, there isn’t much good news for men when it comes to this topic. Alimony remains fairly commonplace and can have significant economic consequences. The one bright spot is that in futuro, or long-term, alimony is no longer favored and, if awarded, there isn’t as much of a stigma against modifying the award if circumstances can be shown to warrant it.

If you have questions about Divorce, alimony, or need a Divorce Lawyer then don’t hesitate to Contact Us Today

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